Tuesday, November 06, 2012
My first thought was about the convenience of using this solemn spot to cut short the distance to this years voting booths. And then I looked at the names so neatly laid into that stone and checked for some I might recognize. The was Goding, Winchell, and some other well used local names. I looked at the names lined up cleanly in four rows and decided that why I had also chosen to pass this way was to honor those names. I had done it for at least the last 3 or 4 elections. These dead soldiers had given their lives for this country and I figured that voting was the least I could do to let them know they had not died in vain.
Some moments later I looked over at Town Hall. Time to get it done. Inside Town Hall, now election central - Acton Maine, the same voting booths I had used for as long as I remembered voting in Acton had been set up along the back wall. Pulling up at the check in table, once again my next door neighbor was one of the two check in ladies. A-L to the left. M- Z to the right. Nancy was in charge of A-L. We exchanged cordial greetings as the gal controlling M-Z looked up my name. She crossed out a box next to my name and handed me two ballots. She looked me in the eye. "You have two ballots. One is for the state and national elections . It has two sides. please fill out both. One is a town ballot with just one question."
I was about to head for the booths when she followed up quickly, "Now there have been some changes.........."
I suddenly became nervous. There were changes in how I have voted for the last 30 plus years? Oh no. Shit. I am not liking this.
"........On the state and national ballot you no longer X out the box with a pencil. This year you need to fill in the circle. That means fill it in, don't just mark it." She looked at me to make sure I got it.
"Uh okay. Got it. But why is it different?"
"The ballots are read by machine now."
I said something about how it felt like I was in Ohio what with the high falutin technology and all. All I got back was a look that said, "Really? Like I haven't heard that one 20 times already today."
Ballots in hand I slipped past her side of the table and sauntered over to the one booth open at the moment. Stepped in and noticed tied with a granny knot, not one of my old friends the stubby pencil with no eraser, but a slick new felt pen. I shrugged or grunted or in some other way acknowledged this step into the brighter and newer future of voting in Acton, Maine and got right to work filling in the circles next to my choices.
President - Obama./Biden - check
Senator - Angus King - check
House - Chellie Pingree - check
And so on down the line to finish with Judge of Probate. I flipped it over and the five referendum questions looked up at me. Checked yes on all of them. Gay Marriage and the rest that ensured we Mainers would continue to be in debt for the foreseeable future. And I felt not one iota of guilt. We need to keep up our infrastructure up to at least crappy status.
When I had finished the General election ballot, I unfolded the town generated ballot. "Cool, we have our own special ballot." That added an uptick in the importance of this year's vote. I checked off yes and left the booth.
Up until this election, Acton had been using two wooden boxes with a slide covers into which we stuffed our ballots. Each one was attended to by a dedicated volunteer. Those locally fabricated boxes had served us well as long as I could remember. We needed two when there was a local question in addition to anything either state wide or national. Guess keepin them separated saved time at the countin end. Today I walked over and there was only one of the old boxes with the slide cover. In place of the other one sitting loud and proud on a very rugged steel frame, was what looked like a copier with a TV screen. The friendly fellow responsible for this machine said, "Just feed it right in there." He pointed to the intake port of the copier.
I fed the paper in and up popped on the screen "Your Vote has been counted". I smiled and in my best local old dubber dialect, "Well ain't that fancy." Just like James Bond." The nice fellow smiled and said, "You're all done." He said it in a way that let me know there was no dawdlin or foolin around. He had votes to process.
I grinned and left. I passed by that WWll Veteran monument again and paused again. I looked at the flags on each side of it and smiled. "This is still a grand country, no matter what we try to do with it. Hope you guys are watching. We're still here strokin." I tipped my hat and strolled home.
On the way back up the hill I realized that I did not enjoy this vote as much as I have other votes in the past. It wasn't all the hate and discontent surrounding this election. It wasn't the down to the wire part. It was those damn stubby pencils that had been replaced with felt pens and that alien looking machine that replaced one of the wooden boxes with the slide covers. Their absence reinforced that even in boondocks Acton, Maine we can never go back or keep things as they were. Even Acton has to face the future. And that means so do I. And sometimes that makes me nervous.
Keep it 'tween the ditches..............................